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Strong turnout for two local causes

The Raymond Dietrich Memorial Barbecue fundraiser drew in a considerable crowd to memorialize the man who put the ‘Ray’ in Woolwich Sun Rays special hockey team, helping to raise money for the organization, along with another local charity, Kate’s Kause.

Last Friday’s event in St. Jacobs had grown consistently since its inception three years ago. This outing saw the biggest crowd thus far, having sold some 180 tickets at $50 apiece, well beyond the organizers’ expectations.

“Everybody just kept responding … when you’re promoting inclusion, how can you turn them down?” said Will Jameson, an organizer and Raymond Dietrich’s nephew. “That’s just a shining example of how well this community comes together and supports the initiatives going on. We would have never imagined this three years ago, so it’s amazing.”

With the increased number of attendees, organizers enlisted the help of a small army of 25-30 volunteers to help out with the day’s activities. A variety of food and cold beers were on offer. Many raffle prizes were donated as well.

“Each year we like to think that we’re improving. We just get more people involved to help with the workload. People that specialize in the right areas …  many hands make light work,” added Jameson.

After a brief bout of windy weather, things settled down and the activities resumed in earnest.

The annual fundraiser has raised $20,000 over the past two years, with the proceeds split between two charitable causes, the primary benefactor being the Woolwich Sun Rays. Last year’s event also raised money for Elmira District Community Living,  which provides support to adults with intellectual disabilities.

Half of this year’s funds will go towards Kate’s Kause, an Elmira-based charity dedicated to raising awareness for Angelman’s Syndrome and fundraising for inclusive community projects. Currently, Kate’s Kause is aiming to build an accessible washroom at Elmira’s Gibson Park through its 20:20 campaign.

The Raymond Dietrich Memorial Barbecue organizers reached out to Kate’s Kause in July to see if they would be interested in collaborating.

“Our vision very much matches what Raymond Dietrich stands for, with accessibility and inclusion,” Kelly Meissner of Kate’s Kause told attendees at the barbecue. “We wanted to make sure we had a place for everybody to be themselves so that they could play and feel safe and confident in any of their social interactions.”

The barbecue was named after Raymond Dietrich, a local fun-loving, caring sports fan who lived with Down syndrome who passed away in 2011 at the age of 48.

“These things are certainly all in his memory,” said Julie Jameson, an organizer and Dietrich’s sister. “He was a great sports fanatic; loved hockey and baseball and played around at it, but there were no formal teams for him to join at the time. He was not able to play, but others can now. That’s part of our intention.”

The event started three years ago to raise funds for the Sun Rays, hosted at Will Jameson’s home. Organizers aimed for 60 attendees and drew in some 30 more than expected. It was then they decided they needed a bigger venue to accommodate the larger-than-anticipated crowd, and organized the next year’s barbecue at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacobs.

It is there organizers intend to continue hosting the charitable event every year.

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